A History of “Anti-Racist Action”

For over 20 years ARA has been able to popularize the ideas of direct action in the fight against fascism and oppression. It has also been an arena for debate and action around the various forms of oppression and their interconnection. As we ACT we become CONSCIOUS, and our consciousness informs our action and all this outside of the control of the government, multinationals, religious institutions or other authorities.

But it wasn’t always that way…
Flash back to 1987…

ARA originally came out of the efforts of Minneapolis anti-racist Skinheads to create an organization that could combat the presence of nazi skinheads in that city and its neighboring city, St. Paul. The Baldies, a multi-racial skinhead crew, were fighting the Nazi skinhead group, the White Knights. If Baldies came across the nazis, then the nazis could expect to be attacked, or served some of what the Baldies called “Righteous Violence.”

While the Baldies actions went a long way to limiting the presence and organizing efforts of nazis in the Twin Cities areas, the Baldies realized that a successful drive against the nazis would mean having to form a broader group that appealed to kids other than just Skins. It would also have to have a larger, more diverse geographic area to stay ahead of the Fascists’ national organizing efforts.

While this was going on, the west was experiencing it’s own surge in Antifascist activity. ARA chapters sprung up in Los Angeles, San Diego, Portland, Vancouver, even out into Front Range, Colorado. All these chapters were represented (and joined by Midwestern comrades) at the first network gathering, which was held in Portland, Oregon. (This gathering took place at the same time as the civil trial of White Aryan Resistance founder Tom Metzger and his son John. The Metzgers were eventually found liable for their role in the murder of Mulugeta Seraw, an Ethiopian immigrant beaten to death by Portland boneheads in 1988.)”

Up in Canada, anti-racist skinheads and others in the youth subcultures were also uniting to get nazis out of their scenes. From 1990 to 1992 in Edmonton, the Anti-Fascist League waged a street-level propaganda war against a racist gang called the Final Solution, who were recruited and manipulated by the Aryan Nations. In Winnipeg, the United Against Racism crew fought to keep the bars and streets free of fascist violence. And in 1992, Toronto’s Anti-Racist Action formed to take on a similar threat posed by the neo-nazi Heritage Front.

ARA took the “no platform” policy of Europe’s AFA (Anti-Fascist Action) in order to create as broad an appeal as possible among antifascists who might not see eye to eye on all things politically. The Minneapolis chapter inspired many chapters of ARA, where anarchists and feminists had tried to broaden the mandate of the early skinhead fighting crews. The Love and Rage Anarchist Federation also played a large role in the development of ARA as a political organization. Cues and strategies were borrowed from various other groups and movements and implemented in ARA’s policy of “expose, oppose, and confront,” as well as it’s commitment to Antifascist education and culture building.

1994 was the first conference of the Midwest Anti-Fascist Network in Columbus, Ohio. The conference was called by Columbus’ ARA group, to co-ordinate and sustain the constant protests against Klan rallies throughout the Midwestern U.S. — rallies which were often protected by legions of heavily armed police. The keynote speaker was a survivor of the “Greensboro Massacre” of 1979, when a Klan cell linked to the Aryan Nations and heavily infiltrated by police and FBI, shot and killed five anti-Klan protestors in Greensboro, North Carolina. It was here that the ARA was more formalized into the form it exists in today.

But ARA is not rigid or dated. We have adapted with our enemy. We have expanded to no longer limit ourselves to just direct confrontations with card-carrying neo-nazis or klansmen. ARA is still fighting the fash at Klan rallies and white power events all over North America, but we’re also defending women’s right to abortion services and freedom from abuse and assault, we’re protesting police brutality. We’re confronting anti-queer fascists; we’re writing to prisoners and standing up for First Nations’ and migrants’ rights. We’ve been represented in all kinds of anti-capitalist demos, and in the anti-war movement.

Every ARA chapter is different, but we join together because we find affinity in struggle. The network exists as a resource to chapters and members to share information/experiences and find backup/support. Involvement in ARA is never identical for two people. Some members have been very public, some totally clandestine. While ARA has a long history of protest and confrontation, some members focus more on Anti-Fascist culture building and education. What’s important to remember is that in ARA everyone decides their own involvement, exposure, and level of confrontation.

Our goals remain direct but far from simple. We want an end to racism, sexism, homophobia, fascism, and the status quo. The state, the police, the church, and the bosses won’t do it for us. We have to take the fight to those that would push the boot of oppression upon our friends, our family, our communities, and us.

ARA means push back!

The Anti-Racist Action Network, 2009